Liquor license appeal begins

Cooper’s Landing owner defends his ‘moral character’
Wednesday, August 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:46 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The hearing for Mike Cooper — owner of Cooper’s Landing — before the Administrative Hearing Commission began Tuesday afternoon in Jefferson City. The appeal will continue Friday morning.

The Administrative Hearing Commission is a neutral, independent administrative court that decides disputes between state agencies and another party.

Cooper was before the commission to appeal a decision by the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control that revoked his liquor license at the end of last month while Cooper was trying to make changes to his current license. Cooper had held his license since 1987 and never received any liquor violations.

Cooper received a letter from Keith Fuller, State Supervisor of the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control that stated Cooper’s application was rejected because of his “failure to possess good moral character.” The division said it discovered a 1993 conviction for cocaine possession while reviewing Cooper’s application, of which the division was never notified.

Cooper is being represented by Kansas City attorney Brian Gepford. During his opening statement, Gepford talked about how Cooper had spent years building up a 401(k) plan at his factory job with the plan of one day opening up a retirement business that became Cooper’s Landing on the Missouri River.

Gepford continued to say that Cooper had completed all court requirements and his probation was completed two and a half years after his guilty plea. Cooper was under the impression that he was discharged and all his rights were restored.

Gepford said the “primary issue here is if he is a man of high moral character,” adding that Cooper did not mean to misrepresent himself on his application.

Assistant Attorney General David Barrett agreed in his opening statements that the issue was “whether Mr. Cooper is of good moral character,” but said Cooper was misleading to the division of liquor control when he failed to report his felony drug conviction on his application. He also said Cooper tried to deny that it ever occurred.

“What happened this spring is Mr. Cooper filled out an application and lied,” Barrett said.

Cooper took the witness stand in his own defense and was shown a copy of his renewal application from this year. He said there were no questions related to being convicted, indicted or charged for any offense.

Cooper testified he was under the impression that when his drug possession case was dismissed by circuit judge Gene Hamilton, the record would be expunged and, after being discharged from probation, all his rights would be restored.

“I obviously answered no to the questions, thinking that they were not a part of my record,” Cooper said during questioning by his attorney, adding that he doesn’t intentionally mislead people he deals with on a daily basis.

During cross examination, Cooper said he doesn’t want anything to do with drugs and doesn’t want them around himself or his business. Cooper denied that he was involved in the drug trade despite a grinder and gram scale being found in his home. Both items can be associated with drug trafficking.

When asked who is responsible for his actions Cooper replied, “Me.”

Ken Kreigh, former Boone County narcotics officer, testified that during an interview with Cooper in 1992, Cooper admitted to using cocaine but denied that he sold it. Kreigh said when he questioned Cooper about money found at his residence, Cooper said that he was holding it for a friend and thought it was drug-related. Kreigh said the amount and denomination of the cash was consistent with drug dealing activity.

Kreigh was questioned out of order; he was the only witness to testify for the state on Tuesday.

Several witnesses testified about their personal relationships with Cooper and the importance of Cooper’s landing to the economy of the Missouri River.

Many of the witnesses testified that Cooper is an honest, hard-working man.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in Mr. Cooper’s morality,” said Kristen Heitkamp, member of the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission.

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